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    Categories: Entertainment

Put on your Red Shoes

It’s BYORS for SAIF’s upcoming annual gala fundraiser: Bring Your Own Red Shoes.

In past years, male attendees could choose from a selection of red high heels and other fashionable female-oriented footwear for the evening. It was all a great way of giving the guys a chance to walk a mile in her shoes, and later dance in them too.

“That just ran its course,” explained Doreen Slessor, the executive director of St. Albert Stop Abuse in Families (SAIF).

That’s not necessarily a bad thing. It turns out that, over the years, men loved the proposition so much that they just started wearing their own red shoes from home, everything from tennis shoes to dress shoes.

And yes, women can wear their own red shoes too.

“Absolutely, people still wear their red shoes. I know a lot of women in the city would be so upset if they weren’t allowed to buy a new pair of red shoes every year for the event,” she continued.

“Go ahead, ladies. Go buy your new red shoes. We’ll still have the social media contest. And men … by all means, you can wear whatever you want for red shoes at this event.

The unique gala is SAIF’s signature event on the social calendar. Make no mistake: attendees talk about it long after it’s over. More importantly though, fundraising goes a long way towards the organization’s goal of bringing in $300,000 every year to fund its counselling programs, all of which are offered free to its clients – women, men, youth, and seniors experiencing domestic violence and other forms of abuse.

Special guest speaker Michael Cameron will help to drive home the importance of such programs. It was only a year and a half ago that his girlfriend, Colleen Sillito was shot and killed in her driveway by her estranged ex-boyfriend.

A month later, he posted a White Ribbon Pledge video on YouTube, reminding viewers, especially men, to never commit, condone or remain silent about violence against women.

“It’s very powerful and emotional. After her death, he decided, ‘I can sit around and mope and be angry at the world or I can take this and make something beautiful out of it.’ It’s all about living your life for what it is, and taking awfulness and turning it into beauty, and making a difference in the world and how are you going to do that.

“After it happened, I had so much love from the community … everybody kindly puts their hand on your shoulder, shakes their head and says that something’s gotta change. I walked with that mantra for a while. One day, I’m looking at myself in the mirror, ‘something’s gotta change, something’s gotta change’ and I added three words: ‘maybe it’s you’,” Cameron began.

“That’s a big part of the message. Rather than standing around, shaking your head sympathetically… actually look at what is it that you can do about it. The biggest thing is having the conversation publicly.”

Slessor thanked major sponsor Shoppers Drug Mart (Mission Hill) for continuing to make sure that the annual fundraiser is a big success and a memorable evening for all, adding that she’s always grateful to all of SAIF’s community partners, donors, and supporters.

“There’s no way we could have been around for almost 30 years without support from the community.”

SAIF’s annual Red Shoe Gala will be Saturday, April 22 at the DoubleTree by Hilton, 16615 109 Ave. in Edmonton. The semi-formal – red shoes optional – event starts at 6 p.m. with emcee Josh Classen. Tickets are still available at $100 each and can be purchased on www.eventbrite.ca. For more information call us at 780-460-2195 or email info@stopabuse.ca.

Scott Hayes: Scott Hayes joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2008. Scott writes about the arts, entertainment, movies, culture, community groups, and charities. He also writes general news, features, columns and profiles on people.